Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis have been the biggest Atlantic 10 Conference rivals for the Dayton Flyers since Xavier left the conference in 2013.
There’s an even a semi-fictional rivalry trophy for the Dayton-Saint Louis series. The Arch Baron Cup exists mostly in the minds of fans on Twitter. Dayton coach Anthony Grant and Saint Louis coach Travis Ford have been informed of the Cup in interviews over the years. They likely soon forgot about it. One Dayton player was asked Tuesday if he had heard of it, and he had not.
Dayton and Saint Louis don’t need to hoist a trophy — real or not — after playing each other. The games almost always mean something. It’s no different this season with Dayton (16-9, 8-4) playing Saint Louis (16-8, 8-3) at 8 p.m. Friday at UD Arena in the first of two matchups between the teams.
A victory would move Saint Louis into a tie for first place with VCU (18-7, 9-3) with six games to play. If Dayton wins, it would move past Saint Louis into second place, a half game behind VCU.
“I’m a competitor,” Dayton guard Koby Brea said Tuesday. “I’m always looking forward to games like this. It’s just another opportunity for us.”
“Everybody wants to compete against the best,” Dayton forward Toumani Camara said. “I think VCU and Saint Louis are probably up there in the conference, so we’re definitely looking forward to that.”
Dayton won 62-58 at VCU on Tuesday, avenging a 63-62 loss at home to VCU in January. Since VCU joined the A-10 in the 2012-13 season, Dayton has played VCU and Saint Louis in back-to-back games four times. The only time it won both games was in 2020 when it beat VCU 79-65 at UD Arena and then beat Saint Louis 78-76 in overtime on Jalen Crutcher’s last-second 3-pointer.
In 2017, Dayton beat Saint Louis 67-46 at home and then lost 73-68 at VCU. In 2021, Dayton lost 66-43 at VCU and then won 76-71 at Saint Louis. A year ago, Dayton won 82-52 at VCU and then lost 72-61 at Saint Louis.
The last game between Dayton and Saint Louis featured an incident involving former Billikens guard Jordair Jett, who had words with Dayton players when the ball bounced to him in the stands.
“You don’t go at a young man trying to compete on the court,” Grant said after that game. “If you’re a fan, you stay in your place. That was weak.”
The Jett incident will be more of a storyline when Dayton returns to Chaifetz Arena in the final game of the regular season March 3. The theme Friday will be about Dayton trying to build on its victory at VCU. The Flyers played their best defensive game in weeks and did enough on offense with a short bench to survive a late VCU rally.
Dayton ended a three-game road losing streak, and it has now won three out of four games after losing three out of four. Now it will try to build consistency and keep its A-10 regular-season championship hopes alive.
Dayton enters the game in third place. It’s a half game ahead of Fordham (19-5, 7-4), which beat Massachusetts 77-67 on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, St. Bonaventure (13-12, 7-5) followed its 68-59 victory at home against Dayton on Saturday with a 76-70 loss at home to La Salle (11-13, 5-6). Duquesne (16-8, 6-5) moved into position to compete for a top-four seed with a 75-52 victory against George Mason (13-12, 5-7) in Pittsburgh. George Washington (12-12, 6-5) ended a three-game losing streak with a 105-101 double-overtime victory against Richmond (12-13, 5-7) in Washington, D.C.
One month before the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., the A-10 is as wide open as ever.
“That’s the game of basketball,” Camara said. “In this game, in this league, anybody can beat anybody. You’ve just got bring it every time. Anything can happen. I think that’s the beauty of this game.”
Saint Louis looked like the team to beat in the A-10 after six straight victories in January. Then it lost 75-65 at Fordham on Jan. 31 and fell 73-65 at home to VCU last Friday. VCU, which got 37 points from Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, turned a one-point lead into a 10-point lead with a 12-2 run in the final minutes.
The Billikens gave up another late run to Rhode Island on Tuesday at the Chaifetz Center. Rhode Island tied the game at 71-71 with 1:24 to go with a 10-2 run. Gibson Jimerson, who made 6 of 11 3-pointers, hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer for Saint Louis with 31 seconds remaining. The Billikens won 76-71.
“It was a good win,” Ford said. “I thought we took a great shot from a team that played really well. They started getting hot from the 3-point line, banking threes in. We weren’t our best. It felt like for whatever reason we were treading in mud. We couldn’t get nothing going offensively.”
Saint Louis at Dayton, 8 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7
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